From Oct. 28 to Oct. 30, Metrograph, a new theater in Manhattan, held a weekend-long screening of contemporary Haitian films in celebration of the Day of the Dead. Celebrating Haiti: Day of the Dead Revisited, hosted by Creatively Speaking Films Series, ran from Oct. 28 – Oct. 30 at the Manhattan theater where seven films were screened. The films each explore a different aspect of narratives and issues embedded in the conscience of all Haitians.
The Day of the Dead, which starts on on Nov. 1 and ends Nov. 2, honors those who have died, and who believers say, prepare the way for family and friends’ spiritual journeys. In Haiti, observers make there way to cemeteries throughout the country to pay tribute to the spirits and honor Gede, the Vodou god of the dead.
Dudley Alexis’ “Liberty in a Soup” follows the journey of three families celebrating the origin of the Soup Joumou and its connection with Haitian culture and history. “La Belle Vie: The Good Life” directed by Rachelle Salnave, documents her desire to find people who share similar concerns and values, and finds camaraderie and unity in the company of others who are also turning their love for their country into positive action and progressive change. “The Other Side of the Water” directed by Magali Damas and Jeremy Robins, follows the 20-year journey of a Haitian-American rara band in Brooklyn.
“Haiti: One Day One Destiny” directed by Michelle Stephenson follows the personal stories of those affected by the catastrophic earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010. Stephenson gives a glimpse of the emotional impact the earthquake has from the prospective of the thousands of Haitians living outside of Haiti, who have been engaged in the recovery from the onset, and will most likely be the ones to continue it once the story has retreated from the world stage.
“Too Black to Be French” directed by Isabelle Boni-Claverie, explores her ancestry and the persistence of racism in France, firmly entrenched since its colonial past. “Needed But Wanted” directed by Susan Farkas looks at the sociopolitical issues at Haitians and their descendants living in the Dominican Republic. Mario Delatour’s “Storming of Papa Doc” tells the story of three Haitian ex-army officers from Florida who travel to Haiti in 1958 to take in then Haitian President Francois Duvalier.
Fête Guédé are important days in Haiti, particularly for those who practice Vodou. On Nov. 2 many practitioners take to the cemeteries to bring the spirits food and rum. At the Port-au-Prince national cemetery, priests and priestesses gather dressed in all white at what many believe to be the country’s oldest grave. There they summon Baron Samedi, a Voudo spirit that is the guardian of cemeteries.